by Buffy Curtis
Three Friends sit holding hands with intent for healing and comfort of a meeting member. As twenty men and women sit in healing worship, each enters the circle, one by one, to be held in the energetic presence. Beside a hospital bed in the emergency room, a Friend stands in deep presence, holding the hand of a patient who may be dying. At a weekly designated time, one Friend holds another in thought and prayer she sits in waiting in another part of the world. Several Friends agree to pause in their meeting, join hands, and send loving energy to other Friends who are struggling with a complex issue. After a few minutes they resume their own work, more firmly grounded in their purpose. For nearly two hours on September 12th, more than forty Friends and community members gather in the meetinghouse to give prayerful space and worship sharing. Peaceful grieving and comfort are found there. “Wherever two or more are gathered…”
These are but a few examples of experiences I have had among Friends being led into the ministry of healing. Many Quaker publications are responding to this call by providing a forum for the topic of healing, prayer, and ministry. I, too, feel the awareness and urgency of the work both past and present. For me, it is exciting to experience the willingness of Friends to speak of their leadings, to give a name to what they are doing. Bringing this ministry openly to meetings and Quaker gatherings affirms the increasing need to bring a conscious healing presence and prayer into this present time. I watch as years, indeed centuries, of fear and misunderstanding begin to fall away. More of us are connecting out of our diverse backgrounds, searching each other out, defining what healing is and what this leading is asking of us. The meetings and Friends that are recipients of these gifts—the energies of love, warmth, and divinity—give witness to its values. The rewards for both the giver and receiver are immense.
My journey into this healing has been similar to my path into membership with Friends—by convincement! The deep similarity between Quaker worship and service, and healing work remarkably affirms my Quaker experience of direct connection to Spirit and faithfulness to the opening path. Increasingly, I have been asked to incorporate my background and experience to assist with the nurturing of healing ministry within the local, yearly, and regional meetings. Each event has easily become what I have come to call an “Oh Wow! Oh No!” moment of consciousness; out of the rapture comes the responsibility. At times, “way would open,” at other times it would slam shut, usually at the very point I thought I knew what to do! When least expected, I encountered the greatest results and experiences. The ongoing miracle of getting one’s self out of the way in order to let Spirit work is truly a humbling experience. Showing up and being fully present is sometimes the greater challenge, as is remembering that this is not the work of curing or the “power” to heal; it is not my work, but, “thy will be done.” The joy of sharing what I have learned with others and acknowledging that this work is accessible to all is a wonderful extension of the foundation of Friends’ testimony to “that of God” in all of us.
Where has this path taken me thus far? Most recently I helped in establishing local monthly meetings for healing, three gatherings of Quaker Healers (Friends Involved in the Practice of Spiritual Healing) at Powell House, NY, and the first annual meeting of New England Friends in the Healing Arts at Woolman Hill. A group of Friends from several yearly meetings are exploring the possibilities of establishing a program of nurture and teaching within the context of healing as a spiritual ministry in the northeast. Local meetings are requesting meetings for healing to hold Friends who are sick or dying in the Light. We have also been asked to hold monthly meetings that have been wounded by conflict or struggle. Healing worship and prayer have been indispensable in helping us all with our grief and pain surrounding the events of September 1. Like the ripple effect from a pebble dropped in water, the influence of the strength and community building that has occurred from these gatherings is becoming more apparent as each meeting leads to another and to another.
I struggle to describe the many miracles surrounding these gatherings. It is difficult to place words into the sacred space of these profound spiritual experiences. The opportunity to reclaim our long, deep history of the ministry of healing as a part of our heritage is fulfilled with each gathering. My experiences are not unique among Friends who have felt and answered this call into healing. There are Friends who have been doing this work for years. We honor the memory of the late Hobart Mitchell whose name was synonymous with meetings for healing among New England Friends for many years. He leaves us with remarkable memories of his ministry. Many individual Friends and meetings continue this corporate work. The support of our meetings at all levels is essential to its continued growth and development. It benefits everyone in our Religious society, for indeed, it is all of us who gain from this healing ministry. There must be companionship, oversight, and mentoring—supported by loving understanding and education—to nurture these leadings in the manner that Friends know so well. Friends need to honor the faith and practice of this leading. It is my prayer that all will prosper from this work, be affirmed and cautioned by our history, be tender in this place, and by grace, find nurture in the effort.
Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit…For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another faith…; to another gifts of healing…; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another the discerning of spirits… But all these worketh that one and self-same Spirit.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2002 issue of The New England Friend.
Buffy was a member of West Falmouth (MA) Preparative Meeting, Sandwich Monthly Meeting when this was written. She is now a member of Mohawk Valley Monthly Meeting, in Clinton NY. She and her partner, Liseli Haines, are deeply involved in Friends’ work on right relationship with Indigenous Peoples.